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Here is a little piece of Seattle, Washington history: I’ve busked (played on the street) and played at many basket houses (where you are paid via audience tips) throughout my musical career. I’ve been using this sign to solicit tips for more than forty years. Will Mutch, aka Sketcho Mutcho, the great Pike Place Market artist and sign painter, created it for me in the winter of 1974.


Will Mutch, aka Sketcho Mutcho, circa late 1970’s.

The old gentleman liked my music, and one day, he approached me to say he wanted to give me a present. He escorted me into his shop which was located in the Corner Market Building. He turned out the little sign in about three minutes. It pretty much captured my look: long hair, glasses and mustache. His signs (much more elaborately done than this simple one) used to be all over the Market. They were so unmistakable. Well, I looked all over the interweb today, and I couldn’t find one example of his work. If you have something, please share? He was great. I figure I’ve made about $500,000 with this sign. (Just kidding!)

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I also happen to have the very first Pike Place Public Market Musician Permit ever sold. A regulation was put into effect which required buskers to obtain permits to play in the market. My singing and guitar-playing act was pretty well-liked. When I went to the office in January 1976, to buy my permit, the market representative  pulled out button #1, and said, “We saved this for you, Randy”.


The author performing at Couth Buzzard Books/Cafe, June 2014.


Happy Updates:

Reader Tiffany Doody was kind enough to email me photos of two prints of Sketcho’s work. You can get a fairly good idea of the artist’s style. He used a lot more strokes of the pen on these, compared to my simple little sign.

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Seattle Pike Place Market Alley Scene, 1970

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Behind The Public Market Sign, 1971

And, in June, 2016, I heard from a person who aptly described herself as a lucky art lover and bargain hunter from Port Orchard, WA. She sent me a photo of this print from 1970. She was fortunate to find it at an incredibly good price. I love it. It shows the Market from Stewart Street, looking south. I really appreciate her sharing! I’ve played music many times on the street corner portrayed in the lower left section of the photo.

Mutch 1970 Print

Enlarged for detail.

Corner Market Building at First and Pike.

More blessings: in August 2018, a young man named Corey Alba contacted me to share a photo of a print his grandparents gave him to commemorate his graduation from college. (Perhaps they visited here, long ago?) Sketcho would have made this in the late 1960’s to early 1970’s (I’d say 70’s, judging by the car in the sketch). It features the beautiful, old Corner Market Building at Pike Place Market, here in Seattle. Not old as in gone! Old as in built as the keystone of the block in 1912, and still standing. As recently as 2013, I’ve spent many an hour singing for tips in front of Left Bank Books, the long-time radical bookstore nestled in the Corner Market. In this image, Sketcho shows the Market on a “rainy Sunday”, when the big, accordion-style metal doors of the various businesses were not rolled up. Because back in the day, the Market was closed on Sunday.

If you have an example of Sketcho’s work (more like play!) please contact me. Leave a comment here; or message me at my Facebook page, “Randy Bowles, Folksinger/Storyteller/Photographer”. I’d love to share an image of it here. My blog stories are meant to be dynamic. I add to them all the time!

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Let’s close with one more photo, above: Will (Sketcho) was fond of donning white-face and strolling around the market, saying hello to all. He cut quite a figure. I loved him. I last saw him in the early-mid 1980’s, at the Moore Theater. The Moore had just been restored. It was a beautiful theater. It still stands! Will has passed on; I don’t have any details…. Just great memories.